Snack maker Orion, buyout firms make initial bids for Tesco S.Korea unit: Reuters

(Reuters) – Snack maker Orion Corp said it had submitted a preliminary bid for British retailer Tesco‘s South Korean unit Homeplus Co Ltd, joining several private equity firms in vying for what could be a $6 billion deal.

Buyout firms including Affinity Equity Partners, Carlyle Group, CVC Capital Partners, Goldman Sachs’ private equity arm, MBK Partners and TPG also made first-round bids, the Korea Economic Daily reported, citing an unnamed investment banking source.

Bloomberg reported that Carlyle, Affinity, CVC and MBK had bid, as had KKR & Co, citing people familiar with the matter.

A sale of Tesco’s largest business outside Britain will help the retailer cut its debt and fund a turnaround plan at home.

Affinity, Carlyle, CVC, Goldman Sachs, MBK, TPG and KKR declined to comment.

Tesco has hired HSBC to explore a sale of Homeplus, people familiar with the matter previously told Reuters. An HSBC official could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Due to the hefty price tag on what could be Asia-Pacific’s largest ever private equity deal and the No. 2 merger in the Asian consumer sector, the interested parties are expected to team up as the sales process progresses.

South Korea-based Orion, maker of “Choco Pie” and other snacks, said in a regulatory filing on Thursday that it had submitted a preliminary bid to the “potential seller.”

Orion, with assets of 1.06 trillion won ($954.37 million) as of the end of March, is expected to join with private equity backers if it pursues a deal, analysts said.

“It doesn’t have that much cash because it has invested a lot in China, where Orion’s sales and profits far exceed those at home,” said Cha Jae-heon, analyst at Dongbu Securities.